In the Dec. 2004 catalog just arrived in the mail, Dell is now offering McAfee SecurityCenter for $69, and no mention of Norton. This has to be a huge kick in the groin for Symantec, to lose the biggest PC maker to your rival. It may be well deserved. The price is described as "a savings of over 35% off the regular value price." Does anyone actually pay a hundred bucks for McAfee anywhere, or is this just one of those inflated "list price" quotes? I think $69 is more or less the going price at Staples, Office Max, et al. This change brings up the question of what I will do when my Norton NIS subscription expires in 2005. Dell never supported NIS, so that's not an issue (hell, they barely support Dell). For me it's the old story of "is the devil you know better than the devil you don't?". I have complained here about problems with live updates and Norton failing to load properly. Others say the AV slows down your system; probably so, but I can't tell myself as I have no benchmark. Symantec doesn't really support their software either, I have found, at least not at a reasonable cost; I think they charge 1-900 phone sex prices for phone help. Issues for me as I see them in choosing a new security suite: * Does the software do its job? - the most obvious and essential characteristic. How well does it block or remove malware; active scanning/blocking is preferable to scanning/removal after the fact. Is it more or less all-inclusive: AV, other malware, firewall, etc.? The fewer other packages I need to install from other vendors the better for many reasons, including cost, updates, complexity, and compatibility. * How straightforward is the installation? - I don't mind if it takes a little while, but is it basically foolproof for me and my system, or are there needlessly complex error-prone steps in the process? * What kind of support/help is offered? - installed with the software, company web site, email, 1-800 phone (my choice), forums, etc. I found out early on that I had too many vendors when I had a problem - Dell, Symantec, Microsoft, and Verizon DSL/msn. They can all pass the buck and blame or suspect somebody else. * How easy and frequent are the updates? - critical for some malware, depending on your computer usage habits. * Will it work or at least co-exist peacefully with other installed security software, including Microsoft SP2, various antispyware packages? - It seems to be well-known that two installed AV systems can conflict with each other, much less so for antispyware. *Cost - not that big an issue if it's worth it, a real issue if it's not. * How difficult is uninstalling the software? - Norton is said to be hell; you have to remove every trace before you install anything else. I've read some horror stories online about this. *Ease of customization - not an issue for me personally; I'm too much a newbie to screw around with arcane settings that I don't thoroughly understand. That only creates potential problems. Plain vanilla is fine right now. *Has the software been around long enough that there is some general consensus that it works? - Most computer mags and sites in very general terms like the same software, but on the other hand, read some forums about a product - some users love it, some hate it based on their own individual experience. It can be hard to get a feel for something when you read these posts. Obscure products, especially freeware that may not be well supported, are out of consideration for that reason (not enough data). I may wuss out and re-up Norton, only because of the aforementioned difficulty uninstalling, and NIS is a known quantity, even if a mediocre one. They will probably be around for a while, so updates should continue, as would support if they had any (losing Dell will hurt, though). If I get more confident, I might consider McAfee, Panda, Trend, perhaps others(?) too. Any thoughts?